September 4, 2019

The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription

In this issue:

Lynda Benglis Redefined Sculpture in the ’60s. Now, She’s at Her Most Prolific.
Painting culture: Public art gains momentum
Number of Manhattan's park art vendors can be limited by New York City, court rules
In Plano artist Jenney Chang's brush paintings, East and West come together
Would You Buy Art from a Vending Machine? Matthew Brinston Hopes So
Making Art Can Be Expensive—These Materials Are Worth Investing In
Was Man Ray the Inspiration Behind the Black Dahlia Murder?
Science provides first deep dive into overlooked female Old Master Lavinia Fontana's work





Lynda Benglis Redefined Sculpture in the ’60s. Now, She’s at Her Most Prolific.
The pioneering artist, who came to attention with her poured-latex floor works, is still pushing the limits of her medium.

Memory is as important to the work of Lynda Benglis as any of her artistic materials, including the globular polyurethane foam and wax for which she is perhaps best known. A pioneer of free-form sculpture who radically pushed the medium in the late ’60s, she fills her biomorphic abstract works with the textures, sounds and images of the past. The artist’s coming exhibition at Pace Gallery in Palo Alto, Calif., which will open on August 21, includes work from four decades of her career, ranging from the curving tubular “sparkle paper” sculptures she has produced since 2013 — brightly colored totems created from handmade paper draped around amorphous chicken-wire forms — to “Eat Meat,” a fleshy human-size blob of poured-polyurethane foam that Benglis first fashioned in 1969 and recast in aluminum in 2012. Each piece in the show is laced with memory. Recently, she recalled how her childhood trips from her hometown, Lake Charles, La., to the rocky Greek island of Kastellorizo, where her paternal grandparents once lived, informed her fascination with rugged textures, while she attributed her keen understanding of color, seen in works such as the hot-pink crystalline cast-polyurethane wall sculpture “Swinburne Figure I” (2009) and the shimmering multicolor paper-and-wire sculpture “Flag Twister” (2017), to watching birds as a girl with her grandfather in Mississippi.

Since the 1990s, Benglis has traveled between her main home in East Hampton, N.Y., and Santa Fe, N.M., where she fell in love with the natural landscape. Her studio, a cluster of small earth-toned adobe structures connected by a network of flagstone paths, which she has occupied since 1997, offers sweeping views of the high desert and the space to create dramatic large-scale works, such as her recent sculpture “Elephant: First Foot Forward” (2018), a ragged five-foot-wide knot of white bronze that resembles a torn tire. Seated in her studio amid a sea of wooden sawhorses, Benglis meandered between decades and movements during our interview. “My whole history is reflected in my work,” she explained, as we discussed her career, starting with her signature poured-latex floor pieces in the 1960s and ’70s, with which she redefined the then predominantly male world of sculpture, and touching on one of her most subversive works: her groundbreaking Artforum ad. During the heyday of Minimalism in 1974, Benglis placed a highly controversial ad in the magazine, after the editors there had refused to illustrate an interview with her using a nude self-portrait. The two-page advertisement, which shows Benglis naked but for a pair of cat-eye sunglasses and clutching a latex dildo toward her crotch, is now considered an important artwork in its own right and a comment on the sexist gender stereotyping of art and images shown in the media.

Now, at 77, Benglis is more prolific than ever: After her show at Pace, she will open the exhibition “In the Realm of Senses” at the Museum of Cycladic Art in November, with 30 works selected by the art historian David Anfam, and next May, the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas will hold a major solo exhibition dedicated to her groundbreaking work in sculpture. On a late July morning, as she prepared to travel to Palo Alto, Benglis sat down to answer T’s Artist’s Questionnaire.

What is your day like? What’s your work schedule?

My day starts with looking at the New Mexico sky and the trees I plant in my studio’s garden. I go out on the porch to feed the birds and watch them play or fight over the seeds. After spending time with my miniature dachshund, Cleo, I make coffee.

How many hours of creative work do you think you do in a day?

My mind is always working with ideas but sometimes they pop and quickly disappear. I have to wait until the idea crystallizes again before I go back to working. Otherwise, I have no reason to work again. Last month, for example, I had a spark of an idea for which I am still in the waiting process. I am not interested in going backward, so I wait for new ideas to appear.

What’s the first piece of art you ever made?

When I was a child, I found some strings and sticks to make a mobile, which I had never seen in real life. Even back then, I was interested in making objects that move in space. My dad used to make kites out of newspaper and I thought about doing the same for a mobile. An urge to make things has always been evident. Art is about tricks of illusion and space.

What’s the worst studio you ever had?

I don’t consider any of them bad, because a studio is what you build with what is available. My beginning studio was heaven, an East Village basement with no heat. A former landlord had convinced me to move from an 11th Street unit to another one in a nine floor walk-up, with an offer of a basement space with an additional top floor, which nobody wanted. Having no proper heat led to my wax works, because I would need a heat source to melt the material. I found a secondhand plug-in heater and bought some Elmer’s glue and clamps. The Copts used encaustic painting recipes to paint caskets, which inspired me to make my own hot wax paint to achieve plasticity and transparency.

What’s the first work you ever sold? For how much?

It was a black-and-white painting sold to a collector from Washington state for around $400. Also, Sol LeWitt had introduced me to Dorothy and Herb Vogel, who collected my work early on. I had a collection of Sol’s drawings, until somebody I had let stay at my apartment for $75 stole them!

How do you know when you’re done?

How do you know when you land on a plane? It’s just obvious.

Have you assisted other artists before? If so, who?

No, but Ron Gorchov and I assisted each other and had important artistic exchange.

What music do you play when you’re making art?

I used to listen to John Mayall while making the poured sculptures. I grew up listening to Greek music with my grandmother, as well as Johnny Cash, which I still think about.

When did you first feel comfortable saying you’re a professional artist?

I wasn’t comfortable in the beginning. Carl Andre asked to visit my studio after a night at Max’s Kansas City. He came to my basement space and saw I had ideas; he told me I am a real artist. One of the classes I enjoyed the most at school was logic. People thought I could be a logician, as it seemed I could argue anything, anytime if I throw out ideas into the space through art.

Is there a meal you eat on repeat when you’re working?

Actually, I was thinking today how important milk is for me — I drink it every day although I know most people don’t.

What’s the weirdest object in your studio?

Not at my studio, but I have a wonderful African carved wood ram. Another important object was a mask my dad had brought from Chicago. Later, I sold it for $50 because I needed money to leave New Orleans. I remember the expression on his face when I told him I sold it, which was the same expression he made when I showed him images of my Artforum ad piece with a dildo in 1974.

How often do you talk to other artists?

I have many artist friends here in New Mexico.

What’s the last thing that made you cry?

Peeling onions.

If you have windows, what do they look out on?

My garden. I should add that I consider anywhere I create my studio.

What’s your worst habit?

If there is something I don’t like about myself, I’d try to change that — but one thing I could be accused of is that I don’t listen enough [laughs].

What are you reading?

A book of recipes called “Barefoot in Paris.” I like looking at cooking photos for entertainment. You don’t have to eat; you can just look at them!

What’s your favorite artwork (by someone else)?

“The Winged Victory of Samothrace” at the Louvre impresses me every time I see it. The New York Times Style Magazine


Painting culture: Public art gains momentum

LIMA, OH: Bart Mills isn’t sure what mural is going to end up on the side of the CASA building in downtown Lima, but he’s pretty sure no matter what, the final product won’t get a 100% approval rating from Lima residents. Controversy is often attached to public art projects.

“The reality of it is, it doesn’t matter what you do. Somebody isn’t going to like it,” Mills, director of the Council of the Arts of Greater Lima, said.

While not everyone may agree on aesthetic preferences, the regional support for public art and murals has made some inroads in recent years, as many villages and cities work to reconfigure the appeal of downtown districts to encourage foot traffic and further economic development.

As for the controversy associated with any new public art piece, that’s kind of the point.

Arts and economics

“It’s called creative place-making,” Hope Wallace, executive director of Van Wert’s Wassenberg Art Center, said. “There’s a couple of different definitions, but it’s a way of using the arts to increase the vibrancy and economy of an area. If vibrancy increases then the economy increases. If people want to hang out in an area, they need a place to eat or a place to sleep.”

By setting up public spaces with art, Wallace said the idea is to give visitors a reason to stop and voice their thoughts on a piece. The type of art can vary, but it should encourage at least a comment.

Like Sculptor Stuart Fink said prior to the dedication of Lima’s three-columned downtown art project, which he set up in 1987: “Some people hate Trinity. Some people love it, and some people just don’t know what to make of it. The worst that could happen is if nobody paid any attention to it.”

Dante Centuori has seen that sort of interaction firsthand thanks to the Armstrong Air & Space Museum’s recently-installed statuary of Neil Armstrong.

“It adds something that we didn’t have before … it adds two experiences,” said Centuori, executive director of the museum. “The interactions aren’t limited to just touching it. (Visitors) are pausing to experience it. People are not just taking a picture of the statue. A lot of people take a picture with the statue, like it’s a person.”

That sort of individual experience makes memories, which add up over time throughout a larger community to create a stronger cultural identity.

“Art in any form, it gets people off their beaten path. They come walking by or driving over. It’s a real sense of community,” said Sticky Rammel, owner of a Van Wert building, which has recently been painted with a white-and-black mural of a blues musician. “(Public art) sells Van Wert.”

Rammel’s piece — an eye-catching vertical mural of a bird, Van Wert’s peony and a musician — doesn’t lean into the historical overtones chosen by many of the region’s villages as mural subject matter, but Rammel said he decided to go with something a little more “modern” and “edgy” to reflect his love of music and how he feels about Van Wert.

“I think for the size of Van Wert, I think we have a lot more art than other towns our size,” Rammel said. “We just have a lot for the size of our town. … The mural is spurring more talk and more action and helps people want to get involved.”

In the future, Rammel said he’d like to see someone else’s version of a mural. No matter what the next mural represents, the idea is to add something for the community.

“It makes someone more prideful of their community, which raises morale, which inspires growth and involvement. Or we can all just sit in our homes, on our computers or televisions. It’s a lot healthier to engage for everyone,” Wallace said.

Historical murals

For many villages, historical murals have contributed to public art for a few decades, thanks to the efforts of Pandora-born Oscar Velasquez, who has attached his name to many downtown murals over the past two decades.

Ottawa has at least one of Velasquez’s murals, and a second is currently being undertaken by Bruce Stowe, who helped design and paint the first one together with Velasquez. The latest mural in Ottawa is a reconstruction of the block that once stood on the green-space southwest of the intersection of Main and Oak streets.

“(The mural) is going to reflect the block that was torn down, and I’m using my artistic license to kind of jumble up history,” Stowe said.

Like the mural just across the new Rex Center amphitheater, Stowe’s newest creation incorporates highlights of history to create a unique representation that ties together different periods. For example, Stowe plans on adding scenes from the Rex Theater that once stood on the lot. Included in his mural, the cinema is advertising a movie written by a screenwriter from the small town, or it features Bob Hope just outside, who came to Ottawa to perform early in his Vaudevillian career.

In a similar vein, the mural co-created by Stowe and Velasquez nearby features historical periods from Ottawa’s early trading days alongside a scene of a visit by presidential candidate Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Other villages in Putnam County have similar historical murals by Velasquez, who has added his name to a few murals that now decorate downtowns across the region. From Kalida to Bluffton, Velazquez’s take on historical murals is well-known throughout the region.

“The ones that I’ve been doing have been more related to the history and the roots of the community, to let people know and let them bring some kind of visual image or symbolic representation that you can look at and know some of the history of the area that they’re living in,” Stowe said.

But while Velasquez and Stowe may have a certain historical style, their murals still work as public art by delivering a certain kind of cultural identity to residents.

“I think it instills pride initially in residents in a community, and I think it instills some sense of identity. When all all that is added up, it is a local culture,” Wallace said. “I think people really need that in a subconscious way to boost morale and pride, a sense of rootedness.”

Upcoming Initiatives

As for Lima, at least two more public works are in the planning stages. Mills and his crew at the Council of the Arts have been planning to install a mural by Terran Washington — a Lima native who has since lived in a number of metros — to create a mural for the Allen County Crime Victim Services’ building.

Mills said sketches of the particular art project are currently being discussed, and he is looking to bring the project to Lima’s downtown review board to consider before moving the project forward to initial stages sometime this September.

“I’ve seen a few rough sketch ideas,” Mills said. “I’m of an opinion let the artist be the artist so he can do his best work.”

Concurrently, a group known as the “Lima Mural Project” has launched within the last few weeks to form a more grassroots approach to the project. Founder Dennis Hempker said he hopes to use the project to spark and groundswell a people-centric movement towards public art.

“It brings community,” Hempker explained his reasons for undertaking the project. “It gives strangers a chance to get to know each other a different platform.”

Hempker initially launched the idea on Facebook and threw a few images together of what he envisioned as potential public art pieces onto the social media site. The idea gained momentum, and now 900 people follow the page to see what the group may do.

Both projects are in their early stages as the two groups examine what pieces, what places they are looking to install new art projects and how the projects will be funded.

Mills said he is looking to include a five-year-plan for the set of Arts Council projects, with one project seeing completion each year up until 2024.

“Within the next few months, the next six months or so, we’ll have mapped out a plan of the pieces we’re going to use, any engagement we got with the landowners, the spaces we want to involve and a general plan of the artists we use. We’re looking to use five different artists to have a diversity of aesthetics,” Mills said.

As for the Lima Mural Project group, Hempker said they are looking to raise funds and put together their first piece to be placed on S.U.N.E. Records located on North Street west of Jameson. Both are looking to get the ball moving quickly to provide some color to the community.

“There’s a lot of people seeing this as an opportunity to introduce change,” Hempker said. “It’s a catalyst for bigger things.”

Cost vs. culture

The mural on the side of the White Wizard Tattoo — a two-story-tall painting of a mage manipulating purple waves of energy — has seen a little bit of everything since it first was painted in 1992 by parlor owner Butch VanVoorhis, and for those heading south toward the Allen County courthouse on Main Street, it’s hard to miss.

“It’s a good landmark for a lot of people who travel up and down Main Street,” shop manager Kurt Davis said. “I’ve heard it many of times when trying to give directions.”

Reactions to the mural vary, Davis said. Some Lima residents — Davis said the culprits usually don’t like the parlor itself — have even egged the mural to make a point. But others have been stopped in their tracks by the artwork, prompting a decision to walk inside and start a conversation.

“Artists can relay something visually that people want to speak but don’t have a vehicle to do so,” Wallace said.

“We just feel like the more that we can gather people downtown, the happier people would be. I’m just happy about all the positive feedback,” said Mitch Price, Main Street Van Wert executive director, about the recently installed mural in Van Wert’s downtown district. The organization originally helped secure the state grant paying for the mural.

“Van Wert is on the cusp of doing some great things,” Price said.”We’re so happy to have this downtown. It’s a great atmosphere to have when walking. When we drive by it, it brings smiles to people’s faces and shows that Van Wert can be a Fort Wayne or Lima.”

“I think (public art) gets glossed over in our economic times because it’s not a giant job, and it doesn’t have smokestacks,” Wallace said. “It’s a more subtle way to increase vibrancy and attractiveness in a community.”


Number of Manhattan's park art vendors can be limited by New York City, court rules
Appeals court says that guidelines limiting number of sellers in four green spaces are constitutional

A New York state appeals court ruled Tuesday that New York City guidelines limiting the number of art vendors in four major Manhattan parks are constitutional. The decision overturns an injunction against the rules filed in 2017 by a group of vendors, among them several local visual artists.

The court’s decision rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that New York City Department of Parks and Recreation’s expressive matter vending (EMV) rules limiting the number of vendors in four popular parks—High Line Park, Battery Park, Union Square Park and Central Park south of 86th Street—violate their free speech and equal protection rights under the state constitution, ultimately having “a discriminatory effect”, according to the court papers, which noted that “at least one plaintiff is over age 40 and several are women”.

Lawyers for the department argued that the EMV rules promote the public health, safety and welfare in the designated parks. Judge Barbara Kapnick upheld this claim, calling the rules “an appropriate response to demonstrated concerns” about congestion, and found that the plaintiffs presented no support for their discrimination claims.

The decision comes almost a decade after the city adopted the contentious rules limiting the number of vendors of “expressive matter” such as paintings, photos, newspapers and books. The guidelines cap the number at 100, or 140 on days the Greenmarket in Union Square is not operating—a substantial reduction from the roughly 300 permitted previously.

Artists vehemently opposed the rules when they were introduced. “A park without art is like eating spaghetti without spaghetti sauce,” Aleksandar Milenkovic, a vendor of oil pastels in Union Square, told the New York Times in 2010.

The department allows vendors in the restricted areas to sell on a first-come, first-served basis. In 2013, Manhattan’s federal appeals court also rejected a challenge to the rules under the US Constitution, whose free speech clause is narrower than the one in New York’s constitution. The Art Newspaper


In Plano artist Jenney Chang's brush paintings, East and West come together

In traditional Chinese brush paintings, it's not unusual to find a scene of galloping horses, with delicate calligraphy spilling down the margins. But it is somewhat unusual to encounter a Texas cowboy swinging a lariat over his head, as depicted in a piece by Jenney Chang.

In the Plano artist's works, East and West come together.

A pillar of the North Texas Chinese and Taiwanese American communities, Chang has helped hundreds of local students develop their artistic skills. She combines her personal experience as an immigrant with her artistic philosophies in her own work, which is on display until Aug. 24 as part of the ArtCentre of Plano exhibit “FLOW: The Dedication of Women.”

"In American culture, it's all about ambition," says Chang, 60, speaking in Mandarin, the language she is most comfortable with. "But Chinese culture is about being humble, about giving, not snatching. It's about harmony. It's a completely different philosophy. In this show, I'm trying to represent Chinese virtues, Chinese landscapes."

The classic — or stereotypical — immigrant story is that of the young person who dreams of a better life and rises to fame and fortune. Chang's story is a different one, perhaps more common but less told. She wasn't fueled by ambition, but was open to opportunities that guided her to where she is now.

Growing up in Taipei, Taiwan, Chang had a natural gift for drawing and inherited a love of nature from her mother. She ended up enrolling at the National Taiwan Normal University, the only one of nine siblings to attend college. There, she studied fine arts and learned the meticulous techniques of traditional Chinese painting.

'No erasing'

Chinese art instruction "was focused on perfecting line strokes, [how to] control the brush, where to use colors richly, and where to use colors sparingly," says Chang. "In Chinese painting, there is no erasing."

But Chang was also exposed to Western thought in a required philosophy class, where, she says, she was taught "how to have a dialogue with yourself, and how to let your ideas develop."

Chang enjoyed being pushed to think more deeply about art. After college, she taught art at a local middle school, where she met her husband, a Chinese teacher. In 1986, the pair immigrated to Texas so that her husband, Dennis, could obtain a master’s degree.

"When I came to America, I thought, 'What can I do?' There was no Chinese painting," says Chang. "I thought about how I never understood abstract art in college. I wanted to learn about the artists' motivation, and to learn how to appreciate abstract art."

So she also enrolled in a master's program at what is now Texas A&M University-Commerce. Chang studied the surrealism of Marcel Duchamp and the thoughtful simplicity of Robert Motherwell.

Although she was learning new techniques and styles, Chang struggled with being in a different environment, and having to speak a new language.

She poured her emotions into assignments that integrated elements of Western and Chinese art. In a piece she calls Transitions, Chang depicts koi fish weaving through three colorful panels made of tape, acrylic paints and Chinese ink on rice paper.

"It symbolizes my journey from Asia to the West," says Chang. "I was wandering, I was learning. I painted myself in this."

The panels are connected by golden bubbles and lotus leaf veins. Chang's choice of visual elements — lotus and koi — was deliberate. "My images are all from Chinese culture," says Chang, "because those are all rooted in my mind."

After completing their degrees, Chang and her husband embarked on their own careers. Dennis opened a computer retail store in Richardson. Chang taught parents how to paint at local Chinese schools while their children learned Mandarin.

Finding connections

In 1998, Chang started offering lessons from her home. She infuses her instruction with impromptu lectures about the cultural origins underlying Chinese painting. "Chinese painting is rooted in a philosophy that heaven, nature and people are all connected," says Chang.

The link to Chinese philosophy is important to many of Chang's students, including Katherine Wang, 19, of Plano. Like many children of Chinese immigrants, Wang is able to speak Sichuanese, her parents' mother tongue, but lacks literacy in Chinese characters.

Wang says learning Chinese painting "connects me more to my Chinese culture... [it's] like learning the culture and language without having to read or write."

Even though Chang starts her Chinese painting students with rigorous, technique-building exercises, she also encourages students to develop their own styles, just as she did during her master’s degree program.

Alice Kuan, 56, of Plano, has been studying with Chang, on and off, for about a decade. Initially, Kuan struggled with the seemingly rigid traditions of Chinese paintings. "I wanted to create something that is myself," says Kuan, "but I was trying to paint the things in Chinese paintings like flowers, lotus, things like that."

Chang recognized that the typical subjects of Chinese painting didn't interest Kuan, so she encouraged Kuan to paint the subjects she truly cared about, like her daughter as a ballerina.

Kuan appreciates Chang's willingness to adapt lessons to her students' needs. "You can see her skill set and her depth of understanding," says Kuan. "I'm very fortunate to study with her."

Her own art

Over the years, Chang focused on teaching in order to help support the family, which left little time to explore her own art. She juggled working, raising her daughters and caring for Dennis, who suffered from chronic heart failure. He died in 2015. It was a difficult time for Chang, and she sought solace in her art.

"Everything I paint now is very peaceful," Chang says. She devoted herself to painting snow falling on plum blossoms, cardinals perched on gnarled pine boughs and twining wisteria vines.

Chang also took some time to travel with friends. Last year, during a 21-day road trip to 11 national parks, she was inspired to start a new project. "I know that many people here feel a deep connection to the U.S. national parks," says Chang.

The connection, she thinks, is not so different from the philosophy that roots traditional Chinese painting in natural scenery.

So Chang set herself the goal of depicting 10 national parks in the style of traditional Chinese painting. Chang hopes to show the iconic landmarks in a new light by employing Chinese painting techniques, like composition and perspective.

In contrast to the fixed perspective often featured in Western art, Chinese paintings are typically composites of multiple views. Chang believes that this technique allows for a more accurate snapshot of a person’s memories and feelings.

"Chinese painting is like re-experiencing your travels: You look above, below and behind," says Chang. "When you travel, you don’t just see one angle. You see an entire environment."

So far, Chang has painted three national parks. Her works of the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Arches parks are currently on display with other examples of her work at the ArtCentre of Plano.

'Luminous and dreamlike'

Amy Darrow, 59, president of the ArtCentre's board of directors, was struck by the "luminous and dreamlike" quality of Chang's paintings. Chang is "visiting our national parks and interpreting them through this historic, traditional style of painting," says Darrow. "I'm humbled by how art can overcome any communication barriers."

Chang's daughters, Nicole and Debbie, say her ability to combine viewpoints and styles reflects something deeper: their own identities. "It's kind of like a little bit of me," says Nicole, 21, who lives in Dallas. "I'm Asian, I'm Taiwanese — that's always going to be a part of me — but I also grew up here, so that merge was always an inspiration."

Debbie, 23, who lives in Austin, says her mother’s art is a symbol of the physical, emotional and philosophical journey that Chang has taken. "It takes a conscious choice to develop your own style rather than just following in the footsteps of someone else," says Debbie. "If you develop the eye of an artist, you can't see the world the same way as a lot of other people, and it's truly a blessing."

Chang has come into her own as an artist and now shares her vision with those around her. But she doesn’t see any of that as extraordinary.

"Whatever environment I'm in, I try my best," she says. "My hope is to help influence the next generation with art. They don't necessarily have to become artists, but I just want to impact their lives — if only a little — with my art. That’s what I can do." The Dallas Morning News


Would You Buy Art from a Vending Machine? Matthew Brinston Hopes So

The mighty vending machine holds many of life’s greatest wonders. It’s always there whenever you desperately need a bag of Doritos, a pack of gum or simply a solid object to lean on while you gossip with your co-workers in the office break room. Yet we so often take it for granted.

Earlier this year, one particular vending machine got even more wonderful when Dallas-based multimedia artist Matthew Brinston came along. “A lot of young people wanted to buy my work but couldn’t afford what I typically make in my studio,” Brinston tells us. “I was also fed up with rude galleries coat-tailing and creating a point of access to my work to people that wouldn’t normally show up to a gallery exhibit.”

The artist bought one of the humble machines and transformed it into a gallery. “It’s a fun concept, an in-the-moment romance that this machine provides,” he said. “We filled it up with small drawings I make at breakfast every morning on leftover canvas and small reproductions of my large-scale paintings.”

The artist has also teamed up with local clothing brand IDKIDC who added some “Texas shit” to the machine. The brand specializes in hats, patches and shirts embroidered with fun phrases like “the north Dallas,” “Dallas high life,” “Dirk,” “Texxan,” etc. Brinston says these items are among his favorite pieces for sale in the machines.

In 2013, Brinston was involved in a motorcycle accident that left him with a traumatic brain injury, and he technically died for several minutes during an operation after the accident.

Since then, Brinston has become well-known for finding creative ways to share his art with the world as a way to give back. In past years, he used to leave his work in random spots around Dallas, disclosing their location to his social media followers so that anyone interested could go find them and take them home.

Since its inception in March 2019, Brinston’s art-dispensing vending machine, which has been dubbed the Vending Vessel, has continued to expand. The artist tells us that sales are “BOOMING.” The first Vessel was placed in a clothing shop in the Bishop Arts District, and then moved to Good Records on Greenville Avenue. Once Good Records moved to Garland Road, the Vessel made its way to Dibs on Victory in Victory Park.

Today, there are seven Vending Vessels, some of which are located around town, from Oak Cliff to Fort Worth. Brinston took to social media earlier this week teasing a possible new location for the delightful dispensaries.

He plans to expand this concept beyond DFW — the Vessel has gotten inquiries from cities including Los Angeles, New York and Tokyo. “I want to incorporate other artists I like in this project too,” Brinston says. “Ironically I see this performance taking place in a white-walled gallery with seven Vending Vessels that sell all the work in the show ...”

Art just doesn't get more accessible than this. Dallas Observer


Making Art Can Be Expensive—These Materials Are Worth Investing In

Starting an art practice may seem like an expensive prospect. Along with obvious tools and materials like easels, pencils, brushes, and paint, art stores stock an array of esoteric items to tempt novices and professionals alike. It can be hard to know what you actually need and what you can work without.

The following list will guide you in purchasing—and making—a functional yet minimal toolkit to embark on a drawing or painting practice.

What you’ll need for drawing:

Vine charcoal
These soft charcoal sticks are capable of a range of expressive marks, from delicate, modulated lines to smooth expanses of tone.

Artists’ quality pencils
Seek out graphite pencils ranging in hardness (H) and blackness (B). H pencils are good for crisp detail, while to B pencils make softer lines and darker patches and textures. Four pencils, 2H, HB, 2B, and 4B, will be enough to create a broad tonal range.

Kneaded eraser
This lifts both graphite and charcoal.

Pencil sharpener
Cheap sharpeners tend to break graphite rather than honing it to a fine point, so splurge on a quality sharpener from the art store. Or, use a craft knife to whittle the pencil into a long, sharp point.

Discover your preferred surface by experimenting with papers from smooth to rough textured, but don’t restrict yourself to costly, art store offerings. Inexpensive pads of newsprint and rolls of craft paper for kids can liberate your work. You’ll be more likely to take artistic risks when you’re free of the anxiety of working on expensive paper. For important works, choose acid-free artists’ paper.

Paper support
A rigid, flat surface with large bulldog clips to hold your paper will allow you to work both on a flat surface and upright at an easel. You can easily make one by using the back of a canvas board or a thin sheet of masonite or plexiglass.

To store your work, two sheets of corrugated plastic taped together makes a simple, acid-free, and inexpensive alternative to ready-made portfolios to store your work.

What you’ll need for painting:

Artist quality paints
Most manufacturers produce two lines of paint—“Professional” or “artist” quality, and “student” quality. While a price comparison might lead you to choose the latter, it will be a false economy. Student paint has less pigment and more added fillers than professional paint, and mixtures made with these paints tend to be chalky, weak and muddy.

The high pigment load in professional paint means that you’ll use less of it to achieve bright colors, and your mixtures will have greater color clarity.
You can still economize on paint, however, by working with a limited palette of colors.

As with paint, quality is important in brushes. Craft store brushes wear down quickly and shed their bristles during cleaning or on your paintings. They also lack the precision and spring of a well-made brush, which limits the sensitivity of the marks that you can make.
Look for mid-priced brushes by reputable manufacturers. They will meet a higher standard than craft store products but won’t feel too precious to use. With proper cleaning, a brush should perform well for many months of painting.

Palette knife
A mid-sized, flexible, metal palette knife can be used to mix and apply paint and unlike plastic knives, it will last for years.

While stretched canvas is the most common support for painting, you can save money by using alternative surfaces for experiments and while learning.
Art stores sell primed canvas by the yard, allowing you to cut pieces as you need them and tape them to a board for use. The resulting paintings can be stacked and stored flat. Leaving extra canvas around your image gives you the option of stretching the work in the future.
Other economical painting supports include gessoed watercolor paper, cardboard, masonite, or birch plywood.

Whether it’s made from wood or lightweight aluminum, your easel should hold your support steady as you push and drag your brush across it. Test it by clamping a board onto the canvas ledge and pressing against the board with a brush or your hand. The easel should hold steady and the board should remain firmly clamped in place.

Additionally, check that the easel will hold every size of support that you intend to work on, from small to large, and that it will accommodate both standard and gallery width canvases on its shelf.

A wheeled or stationary cabinet with a flat top and drawers, a taboret holds your palette, paints, and other supplies. An inexpensive alternative to a store-bought taboret is a kitchen cart with a butcher’s block top that you might already have. Add a piece of glass to the top and you’ll have an easy-to-clean palette space.

Extra materials for drawing and painting:

Beyond the basic equipment listed above, there are a few invaluable tools that you’ll find useful for drawing and painting. They will help you improve your work by altering your perception of it.

Value checker
These transparent filters convert your work to a greyscale, to help you discover if your artwork has areas of weak or incorrect value. They’re easy to make from colored photo gels or transparency film, or you can buy rigid acetate value checkers in quilting stores.

Viewing your art in a mirror will instantly reveal flaws in its composition or proportion. You can mount one behind your workspace, or examine your artwork in a compact mirror. Taking a photo of your work will work just as well.

Assorted frames or mats
Framing a piece can help you determine if it’s finished. You’ll avoid overworking your art if you periodically put it into a frame as you work. Thrift and discount stores are great places to find these indispensable items.

Start up costs need not deter you when you begin a new art form. With some basic equipment, you can achieve a full range of expressive potential in your work. Artsy


The battle for Italy’s art
A populist bid to rein in museums risks politicising the country’s cultural treasures

Late last month, 75 years after it was stolen from Italy by retreating Nazi troops, an 18th-century Dutch still life was returned to the Pitti Palace in Florence. In a grand, tapestried room, Italy’s culture minister and Germany’s foreign minister each pulled back a red curtain to reveal Jan van Huysum’s “Vase of Flowers”.

Under the watchful eye of armed guards, Eike Schmidt, director of the city’s Uffizi galleries, stepped forward to pick up the painting, carrying it through the museum in gloved hands before finally placing it in a glass vitrine. “Today,” he said, “we render justice to history.”

The return of Van Huysum’s painting was a triumph of international co-operation, the culmination of a months-long campaign engineered by a German on behalf of all Italy. For Schmidt, it was a crowning moment in his four-year career as director of Italy’s most popular museum, home to some of the exemplary works of Renaissance masters: Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus”, Titian’s “Venus of Urbino” and Piero della Francesca’s portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino.

It was also perhaps his final significant act as the Uffizi’s director. Barring a last-minute reversal, he is set to leave the museum in October — defeated by Italy’s dysfunctional politics, which reached breaking point earlier this week with the resignation of prime minister Giuseppe Conte. His departure also coincides with a moment when the country’s populist leaders seem determined to politicise the country’s extraordinary repository of art.

Schmidt arrived in Florence in 2015 as part of a sweeping reform that aimed to shake up Italy’s dusty, sclerotic museum system. Twenty new directors were appointed at such august institutions as Venice’s Galleria dell’Accademia, Milan’s Pinacoteca di Brera and the Capodimonte in Naples, and were given an unprecedented level of auto­nomy by the culture ministry in Rome, which funds and staffs the museums. They had freedom over their bud­gets and were allowed to rehang galleries, arrange international loans and seek private funding — powers that had previously resided at least in part in the Italian state.

There was another radical element to the reform. Italy’s museum directors had historically been civil servants drawn from the public administration. Now the positions were open to outsiders and, for the first time in Italy’s history, foreigners were allowed to apply, with seven ultimately appointed. Among them was Schmidt, who arrived from a job as a curator at the Minnea­polis Institute of Art.

Since then, he has won a reputation as a relentless moderniser, cutting the once endlessly long wait to visit the Uffizi’s galleries to just seven minutes by using artificial intelligence; holding the first show in Italy by Chinese contemporary artist Cai Guo-Qiang; getting fashion house Gucci to pay the Uffizi €2m for exclusive access to the gallery; and staging live music shows to draw visitors during non-peak hours.

Some balked at his popularising measures, but they appear to have worked: visitor numbers to the Uffizi galleries — which also include the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens — have surged, reaching 4.2m in 2018, doubling revenues from the previous year to €34m.

Yet on a recent hot morning in Florence, Schmidt seemed a man under siege. In late June, culture minister Alberto Bonisoli, a member of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement (until this week in a combustible coalition with Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party) put forward a proposal that was met with horror by many in the art community.

Bonisoli’s plan would in effect seize back control of Italy’s top museums, giving the state veto power over museum spending, exhibitions and international loans, and scrapping the independent boards of trustees established to provide guidance to the museums.

Bonisoli said his plan was intended to stamp out “anarchy”. But his critics fear that it paves the way for the state to use its power over Italy’s rich stores of art for political leverage. As a harbinger of what might be to come, the government earlier this year blocked the previously agreed loan of a work by Leonardo to the Louvre in Paris, part of a diplomatic stand-off with Emmanuel Macron’s centrist government.

The reform comes against a backdrop of rising anti-foreigner rhetoric and attacks on the media by Italy’s government. Even living artists have not been immune. A poster titled “We’re all in the same boat”, designed for a regatta in Trieste by Marina Abramovic, Bosnian matriarch of performance art, was seized on by far-right politicians. Abramovic was accused of promoting an unacceptably liberal view of migration when Salvini wanted to “clean up the Mediterranean” of migrants.

The government sped the reform through parliament on August 15 — Ferragosto, a public holiday, when most people were on holiday or diverted by the political crisis. It came into effect on Thursday. Some of the 20 directors appointed in 2015 are still hoping to hear from the ministry, which has as yet failed to confirm their positions, while others say they are looking for new opportunities. And a few have quit. The Austrian director of the Museo delle Marche, Peter Aufreiter, who boosted visitor numbers by 30 per cent during his tenure, is starting a new post in Vienna next year.

Sitting opposite Schmidt in his office in the Uffizi, where he is barely visible above piles of paper on his desk, there is a palpable sense of a rush to the finish. A line of people queue outside to see him; the phone rings constantly.

For Schmidt, the government plan is indicative of a failing not confined to Italy’s cultural sphere: the “problem of uncertainty” arising from its chronic political instability, which hobbles even the best-made plans. The seesawing of reform and counter-reform is, he says, “taxing” — “institutions will probably suffer because of this rhythm”.

He also worries about the government amassing control over Italy’s museums. “With the centralisation involved in this latest reform,” he says, “we can see that it goes hand-in-hand with the politicis­ation of the museum system.” Struggling to name a country that is pursuing comparable cultural policies, he eventually suggests Saudi Arabia: “I do not think there is a country in the free and western world with such a centralised politics of culture as it is being set out in Italy now.”

James Bradburne, Anglo-Canadian director of Milan’s Pinacoteca di Brera, is equally outspoken. He calls the proposed counter reform a “re-Sovietism of the Italian museum system”. “Even though we learnt in the Soviet Union that centralised control does not work,” he adds tartly.

Bradburne says the proposals are already having a negative effect on fund­raising, events and anything else that requires planning, because the twists and turns of Italian politics are so unpredictable. “It is a catastrophe of the first order,” he says.

For Schmidt, the uncertainty has proven too much to bear. “I love it here,” he says. “But time is running out or has run out.” The 51-year-old has already agreed to become director of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Italy’s peerless artistic patrimony is perhaps its premier soft power asset; the country is home to the greatest number of cultural Unesco World Heritage sites (50, with Germany the runner-up with 43). But Italy’s heritage and its management also expose the country’s deepest contradictions. Beset by joblessness and economic decline, the state wrestles with finding enough money to look after the country’s art works.

An earlier League cultural minister sought to move Italians to cough up money for art by printing posters showing Michelangelo’s David with his arms cut off — suggesting the grim future that awaited such masterpieces if they were left to the straitened state. At the same time, successive governments have bankrolled the bloated bureaucracy that underpins Italy’s 500 public museums, creating a network of vested interests entwined with its cultural heritage.

“When we put a German into the Uffizi, my fellow citizens in Florence did not speak to me for a few weeks,” says Matteo Renzi, the centre-left prime minister responsible for the reforms of 2015. Renzi swept to power in 2014 on a surge of hope that he could stem Italy’s inexorable decline. He liked to quote Dostoyevsky’s line “Beauty will save the world” on the campaign trail.

Renzi says that he realised, while he was mayor of Florence, that Italy’s cultural bureaucracy “did not work as it should or could have done”. “In Italy I saw more beautiful art and artworks than in museums I saw when I was travelling the world. But in the Italian museums there was a bureaucracy that was unchanged from the 1800s.”

His reform met with howls of outrage. “It was a fever of narrow-mindedness,” says conservative Italian art critic Vittorio Sgarbi, who was particularly troubled by the arrival of foreign directors. “We have plenty of Italians who could have done the jobs.”

Looking back, though, Renzi wonders if he should have been more radical still. “The first step, which we did, was autonomy,” he says. “The real full reform would have given directors power to choose their personnel too.”

Renzi says there was significant pushback against even the partial reform from politicians, and Italy’s public administration. It was more difficult to push through than his labour and banking reforms, he adds.

Successive regional courts attempted to get the reform cancelled until Italy’s highest administrative court ruled last year the foreign directors could stay.

Today, it is not just the directors whose jobs are under threat who are uneasy about Bonisoli’s reform, and the tenor of the conversation around it. Italy’s art newspaper Giornale dell’Arte has condemned what it considers to be the government’s anti-foreigner stance. “What does it matter where the directors come from as long as they are talented?” it argued in a recent editorial.

At the very least, the U-turn from a reform that opened Italian culture to the world to a counter-reform that plans to return control to Rome is “very, very bad in terms of the image of the country,” says Lorenzo Casini, a professor of cultural heritage at IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca.

In a room in Rome’s Montecitorio parliament building, built by Renaissance sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Italy’s minister for culture is sombre. Wearing a blue pinstriped suit, blue shirt and a blue checked tie, Alberto Bonisoli calls the outcry over his proposal “nonsense”.

He says he is not against autonomy per se. Objectively, he says, giving freedom to museum directors produced better financial results. “It helps the dignity of the museum, there is a better reputation, more visitors, more links with the city the museum is in,” he says. “But I noted this phenomenon happened in an anarchic manner.”

Rules should be applied equally across Italy’s 500 museums and directed from Rome, he says, adding that he plans to hire an unprecedented 5,000 new staff in the culture ministry. Where the money is coming from in Italy’s budget-strapped state is unclear.

“The point is this: I want museum directors who are good,” he says. “What is no longer necessary is to go and look for first and foremost foreigners”.

Bonisoli says “the greatest anarchy” has been the freedom given to museum directors to lend art works to foreign institutions, citing the Leonardo case as an example. He argues that Italy should lend its works only to countries that are friendly to its national interests.

Lucia Borgonzoni, culture ministry under-secretary and a member of the League, admits that this threatens to have a far-reaching effect on the content of exhibitions in Italy.

“Taking away museums’ autonomy to make loans in the national interest also means museums will lose their power to stage exhibitions because the deal is: I lend to you, you lend to me,” she says.

But Borgonzoni, who was instrumental to Italy’s decision to push back against the Leonardo loan to the Louvre, is defiant. “We would need to know what Paris is going to offer us for our exhibition marking 500 years since the death of Raphael,” she adds.

Back in Florence, I meet Arturo Galansino, director of Palazzo Strozzi, Italy’s leading privately funded museum. Thought to be one of the most promising of the country’s next generation of directors, he left Italy during the Berlusconi years and headed to London, where he worked at the National Gallery and the Royal Academy.

He returned to Italy at the time of the Renzi reforms, as he felt a “new optimism”. How does he feel today? “More pessimistic,” he says.

His concern, he says, is not the counter-reform per se, but the constant cycling of reform in Italy. There have been eight reforms of the museum system in the past decade, and a new coalition government may well bring another. The bottom line is that the tumultuous politics behind the museums means they will slip behind their international peers.

“We need a government that is consistent in its attention to the museum sector, from the point of view of identity and culture and society,” he says.

Andrea Rurale, director of the masters in arts management and administration at Milan’s Bocconi University, also fears that the churn of reforms will eventually break the value that Italy has in its cultural resources by failing to manage them effectively.

The irony, in a declining economy mired in national debt, is that Italy’s cultural resources are one of its few remaining strengths. “Brand Italia is still strong, it can go another 10 years without life support,” says Rurale. “But its momentum is not infinite.”

In Schmidt’s office, where the phone still rings continuously, the departing director considers the wider cultural role of the Uffizi.

On one side, it is an inestimable source of Italian national pride. But at the same time, the gallery, where 100 nationalities pass through the doors each week, has helped to foster the humanistic, open-minded ideals that underpin modern Europe. It is Italy’s window on the world. As Schmidt says: “The museum is done for mankind.” For him, the battle over the Uffizi is not merely a question about Italy’s glorious past — but also its uncertain future. Financial Times


Was Man Ray the Inspiration Behind the Black Dahlia Murder?
Steve Hodel believes his father — a friend of the surrealist — committed the grizzly Hollywood murder as an emulation of the artist’s techniques.

The daytime television talk show Dr. Phil has been running for 17 seasons but has rarely dipped into art historical drama for its content. That changed yesterday when the eponymous Phillip McGraw invited Steve Hodel onto the show to discuss his almost two-decade-long investigation into the Black Dahlia murder — and how his father may have killed the aspiring Hollywood actress as an emulation of the artist Man Ray’s surrealist aesthetic.

The death of 22-year-old Elizabeth Short in 1947 captivated the country because of its gruesome details of dismemberment and torture. Her brutal demise was the subject of relentless press coverage; the Los Angeles Record reported on the police investigation of the crime on its front cover for 31 consecutive days. And even today, cold-case enthusiasts routinely visit the details surrounding Short’s death to glean new evidence on the unsolved crime.

But few of their hypotheses are as personal as Hodel’s. The former LAPD homicide detective believes his father, George Hodel, is responsible for the Black Dahlia murder and nearly a dozen other lone woman killings in Los Angeles around the same time.

Described as a grandiose doctor with a distinct personality, the elder Hodel was the frequent subject of police investigations. Problems began in 1945 with the drug-overdose death of his secretary, Ruth Spaulding, who detectives believed Hodel murdered to cover up a financial fraud case involving illegal abortion services. In 1949, his daughter Tamar accused him of incest, a charge he was later acquitted from in court. That same year Hodel became a prime suspect in the Black Dahlia case and the subject of the police’s investigation into Louise Springer’s murder. One year later, Hodel abandoned his family to live in the Philippines; he wouldn’t return to the United States until age 83 in 1990.

Steve’s suspicions grew after his father’s death in 1999. Rifling through George’s old possessions, he found a photograph of a woman that looked remarkably like Elizabeth Short; he also found portraits of his family taken by Man Ray, a family friend.

Fast-forward 18 years later: Hodel has made a career investigating his father’s relationship to the Black Dahlia murder and surrealist art. He has written five books about the subject including a New York Times bestseller, Black Dahlia Avenger. And he is certainly not the first person to suggest a connection between Short’s death and avant-garde art at the time. Famously, Marcel Duchamp’s “Étants donnés” (1946–66) was partially inspired by the killing.

However, the driving forces behind Hodel’s argument are the visual similarities between Man Ray’s work and the Black Dahlia murder. The former detective believes that his father was trying to emulate the surrealist artist’s work with mutilation of Short’s body. “This is dad’s surrealistic masterpiece,” he told Dr. Phil. “I talk about his scalpel being his paintbrush and her body was the canvas. It’s that twisted.”

There are a handful of artworks that Hodel analyzes, including “L’Equivoque” (1943). On the talk show, he said that there are “strong indications that [Short] actually could have posed for Man Ray in 1943” and thereafter. In his painting, Man Ray depicts a female subject with a scratched-out face; Hodel believes that his father appropriated this image with his scalpel to create a similar “crime signature” on Short’s body as an homage to his surrealist friend.

Hodel also says that Man Ray’s “Minotaur” (1934) may have also served as inspiration for his father’s alleged mutilation of the Black Dahlia. Made from the torso of a woman’s body, the photograph references the mythological beast imprisoned in a labyrinth on the Greek island of Crete, where youths were sacrificed to appease the gods; as a surrealist work, it also references the suppression of libidinal impulses a la Freud. In 1969, Man Ray also created a lithograph called “Les Invendables,” which he believes matches with the crime scene photography of Short’s body that had circulated through the public at that point in time.

Not everyone agrees with Hodel’s analysis, and although his theories have generated significant interest by the public, law enforcement officials have expressed zero interest in reopening the Black Dahlia case based on his evidence, which critics have called circumstantial and highly questionable. Nevertheless, Hodel stands by his claims that connect his father to one of the country’s most infamous murders and the surrealists.

“One of the early clues was my recognizing through Man Ray’s artworks,” explained Hodel during his segment on Dr. Phil. “This exact picture of a woman bisected at the waist, carefully posed … it’s of course identical to the crime scene photography.” Hyperallergic


Science provides first deep dive into overlooked female Old Master Lavinia Fontana's work
After a grant enabled conservation on a much-loved painting, researchers at the National Gallery of Ireland are learning more about the artist’s technique

Of the 30 or so paintings that can be firmly attributed to the pioneering female Renaissance artist Lavinia Fontana (1552-1614), the biggest and most ambitious resides at the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin. On display almost continuously since the 1960s, The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon (around 1600) is now undergoing an 18-month conservation study ­supported by Bank of America.

Fontana’s lavish depiction of the Duke of Mantua and his wife, in the guise of Solomon receiving the Queen of Sheba, is “a very well-loved work in the collection”, says Maria Canavan, the museum’s paintings conservator. But it is starting to show its age, having never had comprehensive conservation treatment since it was acquired in 1872. At 256cm by 325cm, the ­painting was too large for the conservation studio until a museum refurbishment in 2017.

By that time, “tension on the lower part of the painting” had caused cracking in fillings applied during past restoration, while a layer of varnish dating to the 1960s “had become blanched and chalky”, Canavan says. Funding from Bank of America’s 2018 Art Conservation Project was “200% crucial” to fast-tracking the overdue treatment, she says. The museum used the grant to hire another conservator, Letizia Marcattili, to work on the painting from June of this year until December 2020.

Preliminary infrared imaging conducted with a high-resolution Osiris camera has already revealed “many significant changes to the composition that we had no idea were there”, Canavan says. Fontana reworked the background landscape and architecture, shifted the angle of Solomon’s head and made the figures of the queen’s ladies-in-waiting taller “at quite an advanced stage”, she says, suggesting there could have been “some intervention by the person who commissioned the painting”.

According to Aoife Brady, the gallery’s curator of Spanish and Italian art, “the painting’s early provenance and the nature of its patronage are unknown, adding to the mystery of the scene”. But the conservation studio’s discoveries have prompted “a mission to identify the women depicted as the queen’s attendants”, based on comparisons with Fontana’s female portraits in other collections. Brady also plans to consult court archives in Bologna, Fontana’s hometown, for records of the real-life event believed to have inspired the work: the journey of the Dukes of Mantua to the wedding of Maria de’ Medici (Eleonora’s sister) and Henry IV of France.

Meanwhile, X-ray fluorescence and scanning electron microscopy (in collaboration with the Centre for Microscopy and Analysis at Trinity College) will help determine the pigments Fontana used. Come next spring, gallery visitors will be able to watch through the conservation studio’s window as the canvas is finally cleaned and prepared for display again.

Canavan hopes the project—and a forthcoming publication—will provide the first deep dive into ­Fontana’s materials and techniques, which have been scantily documented compared with those of her male counterparts. “We want to make sure the painting is stable and shown in the best light possible, but the other strand of the project is to elevate Lavinia to where we think she should be and to show that her abilities were as good—if not better—than some of her peers’.” The Art Newspaper